Life is complicated. It turns out that the ways of delicate beauty are inexplicably linked to store returns. Allow me to describe how this is so, or maybe not.

People have very different philosophies about returning items they purchased to the original place of sale. Personally, I shun returns. Returning something can make you look like you didn’t know what you wanted in the first place.

Mike Richardson, my across-the-street neighbor whose last name I will not use to protect his customer status, is a good example of a keeper. Once he has purchased something, even in error, it stays purchased. He does, however, make an exception if he finds someone is trying to fleece him with substandard merchandise or by substituting something he did not order. 

He once bought a 2007 Jeep Wrangler but drove away with a 1981 Cadillac Eldorado. When he discovered the switch, he took the car right back to the dealer and demanded things be made right even though it took him three months to catch the substitution. (In his defense, I find both cars a little boxy and they look almost identical when viewed through a bottle of Jim Beam.)

My wife, on the other hand, who shall also remain nameless to protect her identity, is willing to return almost any purchase. She will take clothing back if it does not fit. She may even take housewares back if, get this: if they are the wrong color! I won’t even take brand new appliances back if they are broken.

I loathe returning purchases. Building materials, items over-bought and extra hardware just go into my inventory. After all these years, my inventory has grown to somewhat unmanageable levels, but when my wife snapped the deadbolt knob on our front door last month, I just went out back and retrieved a replacement for the broken part from my “door hardware” department.

“You have a door hardware department?” you might ask, as did my wife. Of course. It’s past plumbing, but if you 

get to the paints you’ve gone too far. Everybody should have spare deadbolts and latches, strike plates and doorknobs, passage sets and keyed entry knobs stored away for when the Big Correction comes. You can’t just stockpile rice, toilet paper and guns; people are going to need doorknobs too.

You may be surprised to find that many households today do not have a door hardware department. Some households have no assortment of fasteners — if you can believe that. The most disturbing situations are people actually living with a very limited assortment of tools, if you can call that “living.” Oh they say they have a hammer, but a croquet mallet is not a hammer. Screwdrivers are not cocktails, 

but this is a special case where I will give them partial credit. If you don’t have the tools, your collection of door and cabinet hardware is going to start to seem a little absurd, now, isn’t it?

You may marvel as to how my wife puts up with this mini Home Depot that I am nurturing. There is a two-part answer. First we have a truce that works very well for us: she does not harp about my hardware collection and I turn a blind eye to her accumulation of fabric, table linens and seasonal home décor.

Secondly, we both begrudgingly realize that our personal collections are mutually beneficial. When she locks us in the house by breaking the deadbolt, I have a spare handy. Whether or not I know it, when I need a change from 

an autumn theme to winter at our dining table, it suddenly happens with a different tablecloth, napkins, a new centerpiece, sometimes dishes and occasionally seasonal window curtains.

Historically, this is what has been called a woman’s touch. It’s the periodic changing of everyday décor like waves washing over a beach constantly rearranging the sand. It makes the difference between living in a dynamic house and just hanging out in a static crypt — an acceptable way of life for a lot of men but only because they have not learned the ways of delicate beauty.

Learning the ways of delicate beauty can be a brutal and pain-filled experience for men who have grown accustomed to crypt life, but it’s something you may have to embrace unless you want to start returning things like your hardware, building materials, tools and your wife.